The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

CADY: Don’t ask, don’t tell, girls

The first lesson a young girl ever learns is shame. 

Women’s bodies have once again become battlegrounds for politicians — subject to silence regarding menstruation in schools. Because there is a never ending cycle of women being shamed for just existing. The narratives that we must be groomed to perfection and sexually abstain continues. 

Florida Rep. Stan McClain (Republican) has sponsored a bill that would restrict public school instruction on the subject matter of human sexuality — including a ban on the discussion of menstrual cycles with students who have yet to reach sixth grade. 

The most outstanding issue here — aside from the concept that menstruation is sexual and not a natural if not unpleasant, bodily function — is that there are girls getting their period before sixth grade. The average girl will typically get her period around the age of 12, but she can get one as early as eight years old, which is usually the age of someone in third grade.

This creates a clear problem: young girls may not learn about their periods until it’s too late and they are frightened by what they see coming out of their bodies. There is no guarantee that parents will discuss menstruation with their daughters because some are not present, absentminded or not well-educated themselves. So, schools should be ready and willing to provide basic care and education. 

Another present issue is the stigma this bill creates around menstruation. As a country, we are already failing to equip adolescents with proper sex education. Only half of United States adolescents receive an adequate basis for education regarding sexual health, pregnancy and other physical processes. 

With the introduction of this bill, there is more harm between the lines. At first sight, it might sound reasonable not to educate young girls about menstruation until they are of the average age to experience it. However, there is a larger problem looming than what’s on the paper itself. 

Young girls are already treated much differently, in general, than their male counterparts in elementary, middle and high school education. From personal experience, there is a wild discrepancy. 

I remember being in middle school on a field trip to the zoo wearing a tank top that’s strap width was less than two fingers — how provocative of me. There was nothing much I could do since I was already there, but I was issued a warning not to dress that way again — being told that it could be “distracting” for the boys that my shoulders and collarbone were exposed that way. 

In the moment, I didn’t feel like that was ridiculous, juvenile or even sexist, I felt guilty — I felt gross like I was asking to be looked at in a way that I hadn’t intended. Because after all, isn’t it a young woman’s ever present responsibility not to arouse the men around them? 

It wasn’t until I had gotten to high school that I realized how even a dress code could instill a lot of shame into young girls. My male peers would show up to class with shirts cut off at the shoulder so much that their whole chests would be out. But, if a girl didn’t have obscenely long shorts on and minimal cleavage showing, she would be reprimanded. 

The basis of the issue with this bill goes beneath the surface. As a country, the United States is still educating and treating young girls in a way much different than young men. Sometimes it feels as if our lives are dirty secrets that we should keep quiet while the men our age are increasingly masculine by how much they share. 

Education on basic, inevitable bodily functions for young girls is invaluable. 

This story was written by Grace Cady. She can be reached at [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Grace Cady
Grace Cady, Managing Editor of the Marquette Journal
Grace Cady is a senior at Marquette University from Delafield, Wisconsin. She is majoring in journalism and political science. This year she will be the managing editor of the Journal. Outside of the Wire, Grace likes to read, write creatively, watch movies and spend time with friends & family. Prior to this year, she served as the executive opinions editor at the Wire and has held intern positions at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Magazine and the National Federation of Federal Employees in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Grace is part of the O'Brien Investigative Fellowship program this year alongside Julia Abuzzahab.

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